If you are a parent with a small child – or two like me, you have no doubt experienced the difference between vacationing with children versus without children. Once you have kids, vacations are less about a relaxing few days in the mountains or at the beach and more of a testament to your ability to 1) refrain from packing four times the amount of stuff you actually need and 2) accept that someone will now need to go to the bathroom a few minutes after you pass an exit.
For this reason, my wife and I have started to replace these tests of emotional strength with short staycations. In addition to lessening our financial commitment and the amount of laundry we have to do, this alternative saves us a lot of mental and emotional fatigue. By staying in town, we can be in and out quickly. If something does not work out, we can just head back home.
To have a great staycation, there are a few rules you should follow:
- Embrace the chaos: With less pressure to make the most of your trip and less focus on the amount of money you’ve invested, you can truly shed the self-inflicted burden of a perfect trip. So what if you went to a local children’s museum and your kid had a meltdown? You can just go home and try again tomorrow. Do you know what that feeling is? It’s called freedom.
- Become a tourist: Everyone goes on vacation to experience something new, but in reality, we are just looking to get out of a rut. And there are a lot of ways to do that right in your backyard. Make use of resources like Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor to check out the landmarks and must-see attractions in your area. You’ve most likely never visited any of these places because “that’s what tourists do.” There is a reason why they do it, and that reason is probably because it is awesome.
- Leave work at the office: According to a recent survey, one in 10 Americans still spends an hour or more a day working while on vacation. While work is important, this pretty much defeats the purpose of taking a vacation. Ditch the tech as much as possible to avoid the temptation of work. We always want to capture memories and get that perfect shot for the ‘gram, but it might not be worth it if we are also spending time replying to emails about proper PowerPoint formatting from Debbie.
- Don’t succumb to pressure: When you’re constantly seeing the great things your friends and family are doing, it is easy to feel guilty and second guess your decision to not go all out on a vacation. Exploring your own backyard doesn’t make you any less of a great parent. Instead, you’re a parent that wants your kids to fully understand where they are being raised. And hometown pride is never underrated.
- Just stay home: At the end of the day, we can get creative and have a great time at home. Pick a show to watch together, build a family pillow fort, create a customized food menu, have an outdoor cinema night or host game night. Whatever you decide to do for staycation, just have fun with it.
As my kids become old enough to handle things like long flights and being able to sit at a restaurant table for at least 10 minutes without throwing something, I will look at expanding my range. Until then, I’ll stick to replacing the stressful trip with a good old family staycation – and I highly recommend you do the same.